Reliquie (Relics)

I have been fascinated by old, macabre, death-related objects since I was a young girl.
The first time my dad brought me to the Natural history museum of Verona (he knew I loved animals) I got really scared and ran away after seeing all that dead, stuffed animals, but I think that experience has changed the way I looked at living creatures, and it kind of gave me a real feeling of death, while also pushing me to think about conservation for memorial or scientific purposes. 
I started to get interested in ancient Egypt, mummies, magic and death-related rituals (during my last high school year, I also thought about studying egyptology). Growing up in a house full of old furniture, pictures, paintings and antiquities of all kinds, all collected by my father, has been for sure a huge influence factor; as well as always accompanying my parents to visit old churches and antiquities markets.
Since then, I have become very interested in dead organic objects, once alive, but that are still here thanks to techniques that look like a mix between science and sorcery.

I am now working on a piece that puts together my interest for antiquities, relics, macabre and memory.
My formal inspiration comes from direct experience as well as from some online image researches, virtual books and museums websites.
The following is a list of the places, books, websites (mostly found online, since I am not really a good archiver) that inspired me, with some links for who’s interested to deepen this theme.

I have seen things that you people wouldn’t believe…”

Picture from a photography book found in my father’s library: Enzo e Raffaello Bassotto, Portfolio. This photo has been taken in 1988, at Verona Natural History museum, I don’t think they are still showing this kind of things.

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Jeweled, fully dressed skeletons, seen in a German baroque church ten years ago circa; also the building was very fascinating: almost completely white except for golden decorations, marbles and paintings.
https://www.itinari.com/explore-the-jeweled-skeletons-of-germany-n3hu


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Santa Cristina relics, discovered in San Francesco della Vigna church, Venice, during one of my afternoon walks (I am pretty sure her face is made with wax). 
I love visiting random churches in Venice, and sometimes I like to talk with nouns or friars and to ask them to show me around; if you are lucky you can discover extraordinary secret gardens and cloisters. No problem if you are (as I am) a unbeliever, they are always very kind and I am sure they don’t care as long as you respect their place.
https://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2015/07/the-incorrupt-relics-of-saint-christina.html


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Ok, this one a bit gross. Two years ago I visited Palermo (Sicily) with my boyfriend, and I had the stupid idea to go see the cripta dei Cappuccini (Capuchin friars crypt); ossuaries and bone-covered crypts are not very unusual in Italy, but I wasn’t ready for this one.
I knew it was a kind of cemetery full of mummies but I expected something like a glass between me and dead friars, dead virgins (you could tell it by an actual tag, and also they were all dressed in white), dead random people and dead babies. Well, there was no glass. also, not really a lot of space between you and all dressed up skeletons and mummies.
I’ll post no pictures here, but if someone’s interested: https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/capuchin-monastery


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This one is one of my favorite weird places.
Located near Mantova (a nice city not far from where my family lives) and surrounded by reed beds and water, this sanctuary it’s called “Le Grazie” (the graces).
The church is decorated with wooden sculptures depicting hanged men used as ex voto, which is really unusual if not unique; but what I like the most is the stuffed/mummified crocodile hanging from a chain on the ceiling, as a symbol of the Evil. There are, obviously, no crocodiles in Italy so there are a few theories on how it arrived there, some more historical and some other more fanciful.
https://www.wanderingitaly.com/blog/article/973/grazie-italy-and-the-crocodile-church


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One of my favorite sacred places is Santuario della Madonna del Frassino, located near Peschiera del Garda.
What fascinates me the most about this church is the cloister, full of curious ex voto brought by people apparently saved/cured by the Virgin. Some of the objects are really interesting, most of them are very old (you can tell it by the deterioration of the objects and the clothes people wear in the photographs) and used to be owned by who left them at the sanctuary as a tribute.
Sanctuary Madonna del Frassino

The tag says “Zarantonello Maria thanks the Madonna for regaining the sight”

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One of my favorite sources for never ending macabre inspiration is the Instagram page of a doctor and medical historian, Dr. Lindsey Fitzharris: https://www.instagram.com/drlindseyfitzharris/?hl=it


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Something contemporary: Treasures from the wreck of the unbelievable by Damien Hirst.
This exhibition took place in Palazzo Grassi and Punta della Dogana in Venice, during the 2017 Biennale. I was (as well as everyone I know) a bit upset about the fact that they decided to put just the work of one artist in two in the few contemporary art museums in Venice, but these two buildings are actually managed by a private (Francois Pinault), so I guess it was an economic strategy to sell some of Hirst’s work. However, even if the pieces were not really my kind of thing, I really liked the concept, the idea of creating fake antiquities and to show them as if they were found on the bottom of the sea.
This reference is also less historical, more conceptual, but more related to the idea behind my new work.

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1 Comment

  1. An archive full of wonders that you are building here.
    A kind of Catholic Cabinet of Curiosities. Don’t want to stereotype but it seems appropriate for an Italian to tackle this one.

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